World Rugby pledges to eliminate homophobia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Rugby stars have backed the World Rugby commitment to end homophobia in the sport.

Responding to a study that found over three quarters of respondants had witnessed or experienced homophobia in UK sport, and felt that youth sport was not a welcoming place for LGBT people, World Rugby have emphasised their commitment to eliminating homophobia in rugby.

The official statement from the organisation says: “Everyone should be able to play and enjoy sport without fear of discrimination.

“Homophobic language can be harmful to those struggling with their sexuality and it makes people feel unwelcome to play sport.

“We want to send a strong message to everyone involved in sport that homophobic language and behaviour is not acceptable.”

The statement is backed by players such as England’s James Haskell who said: “I think homophobic language is still too common in sport.

“Even if the jokes and banter you sometimes hear are not meant to be harmful I think it creates an environment where gay people don’t feel very welcome.”

World Rugby say they are the first global sporting body to make such as pledge, and is “quite a contrast to the position of FIFA.”

They also recently signed an agreement with International Gay Rugby to work together to tackle homophobia, and chairman of IGL Jeff Wilson said: “Unfortunately there are still alarming rates of discrimination in sport and I think we have a lot more work to do than we expected.

“However, despite its tough and macho image, I think rugby is very well placed to become the most inclusive and tolerant sport in the world.

“We are very grateful to have such strong support at all levels of the game, from the players up to the international leaders. I’m hopeful that rugby’s success will inspire other sports to also rid their games of discrimination.”

Among the rugby figures who back the pledge are out referee Nigel Owens, and Welsh star Gareth Thomas.